The danger of rewriting history

Jan 7, 2021 by

by Marcus Walker, The Critic:

There is a concerted attempt to reconstruct what children are taught about their history.

We really have everything in common with America nowadays,” said Oscar Wilde, “except, of course, language.”

Language unites and divides; it alludes to old stories and tells new ones. Listened to carefully, it explains why despite apparent commonalities, vast differences lurk beneath the water. We are beginning to see this within our own nation and politics, but right now the best example is probably transatlantic, as many British conservatives look in concern across the pond at our American confrères.

Although the US election has seen this dynamic played out in technicolour HD, it has been true of every election, even when the leaders of our respective right-wing parties are mutually sympathetic. It’s not that we lack areas of shared perspective and interest, though this was certainly stronger when both parties shared an affinity for the free market, global trade and the international rules-based order. It’s that the narratives we tell ourselves, about who we are as a party and a nation, have never aligned. The language we speak is different.

Trying to fathom the American approach to gun control is a sure-fire way of making our differences clear. Support for the Second Amendment and the right to own weapons of a military grade runs to the heart of the Republican Party’s understanding of the United States and its citizens. The Conservative Party, by contrast, was the party that introduced vast restrictions in the sale and ownership of guns in the aftermath of the Dunblane massacre, objections to which were on questions of scale and efficacy not underlying rights.

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